Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Google makes news visual and pictures contextual

Two interesting releases yesterday from search engine giant Google, both of which may be useful in educational settings.

The first is the Google News Timeline. Essentially, type in a search term, decide how you want to see the content displayed (by decade, year, month or week) and hey presto, a timelines of related news stories appears on screen. This will be of great use to History teachers, but it's application should be widespread across different curricula areas.

The second tool is called Similar Images. It allows users to search for pictures based on analysis of the image itself, rather than the tags associated with them. It's rather a neat demonstration of how we're moving to a visual rather than a text based culture. It works well, and should be useful not just to Art/Design students, but anyone seeking images for presentations and the like. 

Another Google Labs utility that may useful is called Audio Indexing. This piece of software enables users to search within the audio of YouTube videos for specific text references. It then takes the user to that point in the video. It's quite remarkable to see/hear in action, and has all sorts of possible uses in education, not least for those teaching students with visual impairments, for whom YouTube has now become a massive searchable audio library of content.

Pirates made to walk the plank

The Pirate Bay story broke at the end of last week, as I was transporting myself back from my home in France to the UK. This week has been somewhat manic at school, as we get ready to bid farewell to our A level Media students, so forgive the tardiness of this post.

In essence, in case you missed it, the Pirate Bay trial saw one of the largest peer-to-peer file sharing services taken to court and its four founders successfully prosecuted for copyright theft.

Their argument, that they weren't hosting the content, merely providing the infrastructure that allowed thousands of users to make file transfers, was rejected by the judge in Sweden. 

As well as large fines all four have been sentenced to a year in prison. An appeal has been launched.

The bottom line is that it's wrong to take work that someone has spent money and creative capital in producing and distribute it for free. It's morally dubious and legally banned.

I am one who thinks there does need to be a radical overhaul of the system - what about a DRM  program that allows users to send content for which they've paid the full price to a friend, who then has to pay a reduced fee for the hand-me-down content? In effect, this generates secondary and tertiary sales, while ensuring the point of sale price is paid for at least once. The increased use of embedded advertising might be another way to make content free to users, but still profitable for content producers. 

Whatever the future system of paying for creative content turns out to be, as I always say to my students, if you can't afford it then you can't have it. I remember having to save up to buy records and PC games as a kid. This generation seems to think they can have it all and screw the consequences. As many of them are planning to go into various branches of the creative media, I'll be interested to see what their views are once their content's been ripped and the cheques are failing to turn up in the post!